BLACKOUTS is an unusual novel, blending fact with fiction, a loose sequel to author Justin Torres’ debut novel We the Animals. The narrator, a young man of Puerto Rican descent who spent time in a mental ward as a teenager, travels to a mysterious building known as the Palace out in the desert. There, he meets up with Juan Gay, a much older man whom he knew on the ward. In Juan’s room, the narrator finds a book documenting the lives of early 20th-century lesbians, but with much of the text redacted. Through conversation and exchanging stories, the narrator comes to understand Juan’s connection to this material.
In “A Sort of Postface” at the book’s end, Torres reveals that all of the characters in this novel are real people, though “they have become fictional characters.” Two of the most engaging are Jan Gay, the uncredited author of the book that the narrator discovers, which is called Sex Variants: A Study in Homosexual Patterns, and her partner, Zhenya. At least by the way Juan tells their stories, they could make great subjects for biographies or novels.
Charles Green is a writer based in Annapolis, Maryland.